Glossary of Foods: Tomatoes

| Diet & Nutrition

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We don't give the humble tomato all the credit it deserves. It's perfect sliced on a sandwich, pureed into soup, or diced in a salad. Not to mention ketchup, the cover-all condiment. And where would pizza be without its saucy sidekick!? Surely the tomato deserves more love than it gets!

Peoples of the South and Central Americas enjoyed tomatoes long before they made their way to Europe and eventually to Colonial America. Tomatoes were thought to be toxic and were therefore avoided for many years due to the plant's similarity with deadly nightshade. After the tomato's introduction to the American diet, so began the beloved fruit's impact on all food as we know it. (via Planet Natural)

The tomato is a staple in the amateur gardener's vegetable plot; however, tomatoes are technically a fruit. Tomatoes are the seed-bearing product of the flowering tomato vine, thus botanically, a fruit. And though this argument, fruit or vegetable, is often reserved for tomatoes, it can also be applied to beans, squash, or cucumbers. Toe-may-to, toe-mah-toe.

>> Read more: 10 Easiest Veggies and Herbs to Grow This Summer

variety of colorful tomatoes

There are endless varieties of tomatoes available, from the classic vine-ripe to the hearty beefsteak to the exotic heirloom. Size, color and shape vary from tomato to tomato. Consider the season when picking up tomatoes at the grocery or market to get the most flavorful fruit; mid-summer to early fall is prime tomato season. Tomatoes are also on the Dirty Dozen list, so it may be worth buying organic. To pick a ripe tomato, smell the stem — it should smell sweet and earthy. The tomato should have a slight give — not too firm, not too soft — when gently squeezed.

Thankfully, our favorite multi-tasking fruit-vegetable is also healthy. Tomatoes are famously high in lycopene, also giving tomatoes their bright red color. Lycopene works as a powerful antioxidant for the body, including protecting skin against UV damage. Tomatoes are linked to heart health, including lowering LDL cholesterol, due to nutrients such as niacin, vitamin B, and folate. Plus, they are high in vitamins C and A.

If you want to enjoy the summer bounty of fresh tomatoes, check out our list of 10 totally awesome tomato recipes. Jump on the veggie noodle bandwagon and try Spiralized Zucchini Noodles with Tomatoes and Pesto. Or enjoy the easiest-ever Quick Tomato Bisque for a simple dish that's sure to wow family or guests.

raw zoodles with pesto and tomatoes